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Renaissance at Snake Ridge

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

Using chainsaws and prescribed fire, Dick and Esther Myers spend the cool days of spring and fall practicing what they call "a scientific art form." It's all part of their efforts to restore glades and improve timber on the 640 remote acres they own in eastern Taney County.

The couple recently requested their second term in the Missouri Department of Conservation's Forest Stewardship Program. At age 72, Dick says it's even more important to conserve the diverse and fascinating habitat that defines his property.

Their work has created a legacy of valuable hard-wood and wildlife habitat for the native species that are returning to the property. They may even be help-in to preserve the tiny Tumbling Creek Cavesnail, which was recently added to the federal list of endangered species.

"We are trying to preserve," Dick said, "but one of the great joys is to associate; just to live with these things."

To care for this land was the reason the Myers retired in 1991 to Snake Ridge Farm. They named the land for the large copperhead that cost Dick the tip of his right middle finger.

Ambling through a glade once choked by cedars, Dick stoops and tenderly jiggles an endangered purple beard-tongue. Its bell-shaped flowers bloom only on bare limestone outcroppings.

Also here are smoke trees with their puffy, grayish blossoms. They are found only in five Missouri counties. The hardwood, once commonly used for fence posts, now thrives in their front yard, with seedlings sprouting alongside.

"We're just trying to live with this land in a way that's best for it and easiest for us," Esther said.

In their quest, they've gained valuable help from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The federal stewardship program administered by conservation agencies at the state level was authorized in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While funding for cost-share elements of the program slowed in the 1990s, the 2002 farm bill has boosted those funds, said Brian Brookshire, forestry field program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Nationally, the program's goal was to place 25 million acres of private forestland under stewardship manage-met. The primary benefit of joining the program is free on-site advice from a local resource forester who designs a specific forest management plan.

The Conservation Department's mission is to manage Missouri's forest, fish and wildlife resources. In formulating plans for the best management of individual proper-ties, one of

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